The Medici are famous as the rulers of Florence at the high point of the Renaissance. Their power derived from the family bank, and this book tells the fascinating, frequently bloody story of the family and the dramatic development and collapse of their bank (from Cosimo who took it over in 1419 to his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent who presided over its precipitous decline). The Medici faced two apparently insuperable problems: how did a banker deal with the fact that the Church regarded interest as a sin and had made it illegal? How in a small republic like Florence could he avoid having his wealth taken away by taxation? But the bank became indispensable to the Church. And the family completely subverted Florence's claims to being democratic. They ran the city. Medici Money explores a crucial moment in the passage from the Middle Ages to the Modern world, a moment when our own attitudes to money and morals were being formed.To read this book is to understand how much the Renaissance has to tell us about our own world. Medici Money is one of the launch titles in a new series, Atlas Books, edited by James Atlas. Atlas Books pairs fine writers with stories of the economic forces that have shaped the world, in a new genre - the business book as literature.
Egads I don't think I ever realized that the Pope that Luther fought against was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. How about that!
I did find the writing style of the book a bit annoying. There are sentence fragments all over the place. It's not carelessly done - it's too consistent for that. It's just sort of deliberately informal, chatty. It wasn't a total obstacle - it was clear enough what the author was saying.
There were many fun references to our current social/political environment. That's a major theme of the book, the way that 15th Century Florence was the birthplace of our modern society. Of course any such hypothesis has to be simplistic to the point almost of absurdity. But the cartoon starkness of it makes it clearer. Maybe the reader will be motivated to study further, to fill in the subtleties. How was Luther different than Savonarola?
The tight relationship between money - banking - and politics: that's the core of it. How money has erased old family power. (There's one of those sentence fragments!)
Ah, there was a sentence in the book somewhere... in a productive economy, banks can make money by investing in productive enterprises. When all the productivity has moved elsewhere, the only money to be made is by encouraging the powerful to overspend on grand gestures, military and otherwise. Definitely many pointed references to present circumstances, though not always clearly labeled as such!
My biggest complaint is that if this is supposed to be a non-fiction work, then a true bibliography and a notes section should have been included. Instead there is a "Bibliographic Notes" section where he gives his opinion of other works on the Medici.